Factors that influence changes to existing chronic pain management plans

Julie Diiulio, Laura G. Militello, Barbara T. Andraka-Christou, Robert L. Cook, Robert W. Hurley, Sarah M. Downs, Shilo Anders, Burke W. Mamlin, Elizabeth C. Danielson, Christopher A. Harle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


Background: The objective of this qualitative study is to better understand primary care clinician decision making for managing chronic pain. Specifically, we focus on the factors that influence changes to existing chronic pain management plans. Limitations in guidelines and training leave clinicians to use their own judgment and experience in managing the complexities associated with treating patients with chronic pain. This study provides insight into those judgments based on clinicians’ first-person accounts. Insights gleaned from this study could inspire innovations aimed at supporting primary care clinicians (PCCs) in managing chronic pain. Methods: We conducted 89 interviews with PCCs to obtain their first-person perspective of the factors that influenced changes in treatment plans for their patients. Interview transcripts were analyzed thematically by a multidisciplinary team of clinicians, cognitive scientists, and public health researchers. Results: Seven themes emerged through our analysis of factors that influenced a change in chronic pain management: 1) change in patient condition; 2) outcomes related to treatment; 3) nonadherent patient behavior; 4) insurance constraints; 5) change in guidelines, laws, or policies; 6) approaches to new patients; and 7) specialist recommendations. Conclusions: Our analysis sheds light on the factors that lead PCCs to change treatment plans for patients with chronic pain. An understanding of these factors can inform the types of innovations needed to support PCCs in providing chronic pain care. We highlight key insights from our analysis and offer ideas for potential practice innovations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2020


  • Chronic Pain
  • Clinical Decision Making
  • Opioids
  • Pain Management
  • Primary Health Care
  • Qualitative Research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice

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  • Cite this

    Diiulio, J., Militello, L. G., Andraka-Christou, B. T., Cook, R. L., Hurley, R. W., Downs, S. M., Anders, S., Mamlin, B. W., Danielson, E. C., & Harle, C. A. (2020). Factors that influence changes to existing chronic pain management plans. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 33(1), 42-50. https://doi.org/10.3122/jabfm.2020.01.190284